Feminist Dudes: explain this to me
I’ve been mildly obsessed with this story since I first read it, and sometimes the only fix for that is to blog it. It’s a story by a woman who I think is extremely relatable—young, hip, urban, educated, feminist sort—who pulls the card we all dread, the unwanted pregnancy. Usually, these stories involve a lot of soul-searching, but our heroine already knows what she wants to do, which I think is commendable. If more people thought about this before it came up, and even talked about it with their partners, we’d be in a better spot. She has the abortion, and doesn’t feel bad about it, nor should she. In fact, she seems to feel good about taking care of herself, as she should, even though there are powerful social stigmas employed to shame any woman who believes she deserves to be happy and healthy. (Many of the commenters at Nerve and Alternet go on absolute misogynist meltdown—some people just can’t stand it when women don’t hate themselves.)
But her problem since then is that her male friends, boyfriends, and dates that somehow get it out of her cannot be cool. Women are cool, generally, but men she’s told have reactions ranging from assuming she’s utterly torn up about it to getting super-angry with her when she doesn’t pretend to be torn up about it for their benefit. (This makes the commenters even more ballistic. The only thing worse than a woman who doesn’t hate herself is a woman who believes her emotions are valid and deserve respect.) Now she dreads dealing with men on this issue more than she dreaded the surgery itself. The whole thing reminded me of how Lord Saletan has proposed a “legal abortions but mandatory guilt trips” compromise—that way the anti-choicers get to punish the sluts, but women, at the end of the day, get to make the best decision for themselves. Our society has constructed women as debased to the degree that society still is uncomfortable with a woman who refuses to be debased, guilt-tripped, or depressed over something she did that was not only not wrong, but the right thing to do.
My theory is that people’s discomfort with abortion correlates pretty strongly to their own sexism, and this strikes me as more evidence for that theory. A lot of liberal dudes think that because they’re pro-choice, anti-rape, pro-equality, and pro-Title IX, they’ve got their bases covered, and they never spend time examining their own internalized sexism. And so when a woman does something that clashes with a stereotype, such as doesn’t feel bad about not having a baby or about having sex, they don’t know how to take it. That, plus a generalized discomfort with women’s bodies that our culture encourages, and many men are ill-equipped to handle it.
But I’m not a dude, so I can’t say. However, many of you are, and so I’d like to hear from you about why you think the author couldn’t catch a break from all these men in her life? (To be fair, her good male friend came around, but it took him some time.)